Avoiding Globalization? the Political Economy of Development in the Middle East and North Africa [Globalization and the Middle East: Islam, Economy, Society, and Politics] [Globalization and the Politics of Development in the Middle East] [Arab Human Development Report 2002: Creating Opportunities for Future Generations]

Article excerpt

Globalization and the Middle East: Islam, Economy, Society, and Politics, edited by Toby Dodge and Richard Higgott (London: Royal Institute of International Affairs, 2002, 208pp, [Symbol Not Transcribed]45.00 cloth, ISBN 1-86203-133-9, [Symbol Not Transcribed]16.95 paper, ISBN 1-86203-134-7)

Globalization and the Politics of Development in the Middle East by Clement Henry and Robert Springborg (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2001, xxi, 258pp, [Symbol Not Transcribed]45.00 cloth, ISBN 0-521-62631-5, [Symbol Not Transcribed]14.95 paper, ISBN 0-521-62312-X)

Arab Human Development Report 2002: Creating Opportunities for Future Generations by United Nations Development Programme and the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (New York: United Nations Publications, 2002, xiv, 168pp, US$23.00, ISBN 92-1-126147-3)

Anyone who has experienced the vibrant commercial life of the suqs or markets of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region may be surprised by the conclusion of the three books under review here: the region remains on the margins of - and, indeed, in many ways is detaching itself from - the accelerating processes of globalization. This article looks at the extent of the region's increasingly peripheral status at the global level, offers some explanations for this paradoxical trend given the global importance of the region, and outlines some possible future trajectories. Usually, the 'exceptionalism' of the MENA region is articulated in other ways. Most studies focus on the regional, political, and cultural aspects of life in the MENA region; they usually find the area embroiled in 'intractable' regional conflicts, dominated by resilient authoritarian structures that have impeded the spread of democracy, and besieged by a variety of powerful if fragmented Islamist movements. Because of their emphasis on the region's political economy, however, these three books - the first a series of articles emanating from a conference hosted by the Royal Institute of International Affairs in Britain, the second a text written by two eminent political scientists who specialize on the Middle East, and the third a report produced by a team of Arab economists commissioned by the UNDP and the Arab Fund for Social and Economic Development - are welcome, if sobering, additions to the literature on the MENA region and should contribute to a deeper, broader, and more materialist understanding of the dilemmas it faces in the modern world.

Globalization and Development in the MENA Region - An Early Report Card

While there is much debate over the strength, effect, and significance of globalization at present, there is little doubt about its reality. Fuelled by the liberalization of financial markets, the opening up of trading regimes, and the development of communications technology in the West - all of which have reduced the transaction costs of doing business abroad - there has been an explosion of global economic activity over the last decade, activity that has had implications far beyond the realm of the global marketplace. The effects have been particularly apparent in the developing world, sometimes referred to as the 'Global South,' because of it desperate need for capital to fuel development programmes and to foster economic growth. Faced with declining levels of military and financial assistance from the West as a result of the end of the cold war, many countries in the developing world succumbed to the pressure from international financial institutions (IFIs), such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, to open up their state-controlled markets to global competition in exchange for new injections of development capital. The result has been a dramatic increase in the flow of private capital to the development world. Whereas official development assistance remained constant between 1990 and 1998 at just under US$60 billion, foreign direct investment alone skyrocketed from US$20 billion in 1990 to in excess of US$160 billion in 1998 (p 45, Henry and Springborg). …